Magnetic Catalysts for Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis

Period of Performance: 01/01/2008 - 12/31/2008


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

TDA Research, Inc.
12345 W. 52nd Ave. Array
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


Among the candidate resources to produce liquid fuels ¿ biomass, oil sands, oil shale, and coal ¿ coal is the most promising, with over 250 billion tons of known domestic reserves. Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis is the most economically promising method of converting coal into transportation fuels. Although the FT process is run on a commercial scale in both South Africa and Malaysia, three significant challenges remain: (1) the attrition resistance of the catalyst, (2) difficulties in separating the catalyst from the hydrocarbon wax products, and (3) an inability to carry out the water-gas-shift conversion and FT synthesis in the same unit. This project will develop a unique catalytic material that can address all three technical challenges. In Phase I, a highly active catalyst for the both the Fischer-Tropsch and water-gas-shift synthesis reactions was developed. By selecting the right promoters, a CO-rich coal-derived synthesis gas was converted into a desired molecular weight hydrocarbon wax product with great efficiency. Sorbent life was demonstrated in a long-term test under representative conditions, and a preliminary analysis demonstrated the economic viability of the process. In Phase II, catalyst performance will be improved, and production will be scaled-up using commercial manufacturing techniques. A prototype test unit will be designed and fabricated to demonstrate the concept at a larger scale. Finally, a detailed system analysis and engineering assessment will be conducted to fully quantify the benefits of the new technology. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits as described by the awardee: A viable alternative to crude oil is needed to moderate the effect of oil price hikes and provide an interim bridge until some other fuel source can commercially supplant petroleum-based fuels. An effective FT synthesis plant could be coupled with a coal-based Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) to co-produce both electric power and fuels.